Two weeks ago I was picking Son #2 up from school after he had stayed after to lift weights. He got into the car and the conversation went like this:
Son: I am on the Lacrosse team.
Me: What do you mean?
Son: Well, I was in the locker room lifting weights and a couple of my friends who are on the Lacrosse team came in and asked me to come and play with them.
Me: Don’t you need to try out?
Son: I tried out today. I’m on the team. I start tomorrow’s game. I’m a middie – facing off.
Me: You didn’t ask us about this. You didn’t talk with us at all.
Son: I didn’t know it was going to happen.
Me: Do you have equipment? You don’t have a stick. What about pads? And a helmet? Cleats?
Son: Mom, I thought about all of that before I accepted. I’ve got everything from when I played before.
Me: But that was 2 years ago – you’ve grown a lot since then.
Son: Mom, it’ll be fine. I am on the team! Isn’t that great?
Me: I don’t know if Dad and I can’t get you to and from practices and games.
Son: It’s okay. I’ll catch a ride with someone.
Me: You did not think any of this through. I think you should have talked to us about this before you told them you would play.
Son: I’m playing tomorrow Mom. The guys took me to practice and I tried out for the coach. He said I’m playing tomorrow. There are only 5 games left Mom. It’s not gonna be a problem.
For as far back as I can recall I knew I wanted to have a large family. My best friend growing up had four kids. Three girls and one boy. There was always a great deal of commotion in their house. People coming and going and activity filled lives. I liked that. I knew that I would do my best to create my own large family one day.
My husband comes from a large family as well. He is the youngest of four. Three boys and a girl. He also knew that he wanted a big family. He already had a daughter from his first marriage so there was already one on the books to be counted.
Having a large family has obvious benefits. But parenting a large family has a major kink in the hose. We’ve all experienced mommy guilt. That voice inside of us that tells us that we are not doing enough and that no matter what choice we make in any given situation we are letting another portion of life down. The more children - the more guilt.
When the kids were younger, it was easier to be at everyone’s everything. After all, when I was attending preschool functions for the oldest two the younger two were just babes and it didn’t impact them. When the older two played t-ball – it was a family affair. I packed the cooler with snacks and off we all went to line the sidelines with our chairs. Son #3 and Daughter managed to live their lives in their car seats traveling from place to place in support of their older siblings. It wasn’t a problem. They looked up to their older siblings and wanted to be a part of the commotion. Besides - they were each other’s best friend.
Eventually Son #3 and Daughter grew up to begin their own activities. My husband and I soon learned that we had been swallowed up by all of those things. So we began finding activities that they could all participate in at the same time. It wasn’t easy to find those things – but it was certainly easier than trying to be in four places at one time.
My husband took all three boys and joined Christian Service Brigade through church. It was a fun experience for all of them. They met once a week altogether and participated in all sorts of boyish activities including camping trips and Pinewood Derby races.
Trying to keep up with each child on individual teams also made for crazy times. Four different children with four different practices days on four different fields in four separate parts of town with four different game schedules became a bit hairy. So we found a local recreational league where they could all play soccer at the same place, on the same nights, at the same time. My husband and I would drive together to practices. We could stroll the field at the school and spend time watching each individual child engage on their separate teams. Everyone finished at the same time and we’d go for pizza afterward. All games were held on Saturdays. They began youngest to oldest starting at 8:30 am and just lined them up in back to back games. By Noon on Saturday soccer was complete. We would have lunch out and the rest of the weekend was ours to enjoy.
My husband was a wrestler and began coaching wrestling when the kids were young. It was also a great way to have all 3 boys participate in a sport they loved and not be on separate schedules or teams. With wrestling you need to fill all weight classes. So I had three boys in the lineup. Easy as pie.
Meanwhile my daughter had begun dance lessons at the age of 4. Over the years she had tried other things. She gave cheerleading a whirl and had played soccer a couple of years but her heart was in dancing. I was asked to teach at her studio and before we knew it, our family would divide and conquer but at least each child always had a parent there to watch and encourage.
But as expected, the kids grew older. They began to voice their own interests, develop their own talents and were finding their own paths in life. The days of being able to make it all happen in such an organized way were over. First the oldest went to high school. When Son #1 went to high school we experienced it for the first time.
The separation. The crazy calendar. The realization that my husband and I could not be in all of the designated places required of us as parents for all of our children. Someone would need to catch a ride. Someone would need to go to their game and not have a parent there. It was a serious change in the way our family had been operating for so long.
I had one in high school on the wrestling team following their own schedule. I had 2 playing football on two separate teams with two different practice and game schedules on opposite ends of town. I had two wrestling on the team with their father as coach so he was always required to be there. I had two playing lacrosse on two separate teams. Then there was Daughter who was at the studio dancing, where I also worked in the evenings. The schedule became ridiculous.
My husband and I had made a pact that we would never allow one of our boys to be on a field participating in a contact sport without one of us there. It was growing increasingly difficult to keep the pact. There were days that I literally would get in the car and start driving the carpools at 4:30 and not get out of the car for 3 hours. Just driving carpools.
Carpools. You turn to them for help but in actuality they become another responsibility to box you in. One of my kids would have a game and want us to watch but instead I was the driver for another child’s carpool that night. I couldn’t switch nights because the other practice night I had to work. So I would say, “I’m sorry I can’t be there tonight – play hard, have fun and I love you.” And the guilt began.
Even though I teach at Daughter’s studio and she has always been in at least one of my classes, I never was present for the Open House where I could watch her like a normal parent. Why? Because I was in the studio down the hall, teaching my own classes with parents there to watch my own dance. After many years of silence last year my daughter finally said, “Here we go. Another open house where everyone has a parent there but me.” Oh the guilt.
Up until this year I had not let my daughter compete on the Competition Team. I could not imagine adding another commitment to the mix. For years I had told her that when she was 10, we would talk about it. Funny how fast that time went and suddenly she was 10. But husband and I agreed it was her turn to be on a team like her brothers had been for years.
So this year?
Two in high school. Son #1 and Son #2 both played varsity football so at least they were together at practices and games. One on the Robotics Team with practices on Wednesdays and Thursdays after school and several weekend competitions to attend throughout the year. One on the wrestling team who was dominating the sport and wrestling on the varsity team, competing at a very high level.
Son #3 still back in junior league sports. On the football team where I ran in a carpool with 2 other mothers. Also, the last one left on the wrestling team with Coach Dad.
Daughter‘s dance schedule has been crazy this year. Nutcracker rehearsals on Friday nights and Saturday mornings for months. Competition rehearsals every Friday night. All in addition to taking regular classes at the studio every evening other than Wednesdays. (By the way – I teach on Wednesday nights.)
Combine the above ingredients and this is what you get:
My husband and I have each missed touchdowns, passes, matches, pins, losses, wins, dances, rehearsals, auditions, competitions and robotics events…
Because we can’t be everywhere.
Our kids have done exceptional things and we didn’t see them.
Our kids took hard losses and we didn’t see them.
So this weekend Son #2 says, “Mom are you coming to my Lacrosse game Monday?”
Me: You know I have to work.
Son: Dad, are you coming to my Lacrosse game?
Dad: You know I’ve already made a commitment with Son #1.
Son: Oh. Okay.
So last night I get home from work. Son #2 says, “Mom, I have a home game on Friday. Can you come?”
But I started thinking about it.
My guilt isn’t because I feel badly for my children.
Honestly, that is life. My kids learned early on that the world didn’t revolve around them. Being born into a large family teaches you that right off of the bat. It teaches you that sometimes you have to take turns. Sometimes other people’s needs come before yours. Life isn’t fair and it isn’t all about you. It has also taught them that you don’t do things to please other people. They don’t need us there to tell them they are great or make them feel like they are deserving. They’ve learned that they do what makes them happy and that they aren't doing anything for us. They achieve their goals for their own purpose and accomplishments.
So what is the guilt all about?
The guilt I feel is my own disappointment.
I am disappointed that I missed being there.
My children don’t hold it against me. They don’t feel slighted or abandoned because I had to say that it was someone else’s turn that day. I can create that drama if I let myself.
But if I am honest and let all of the drama go – the one greatest affected is myself.
I am sorry that I missed some of the big moments of my kids.
But I realized that I need to remember that the reason it isn’t a big deal to my kids is this…
If I miss a big moment – it’s usually because I was involved in someone else’s small moment.
And it’s in those small moments that our relationships have been forged.
It is in those small moments that the circle of love and family unity has been declared.
It is in those small moments that we live everyday and love each other tomorrow.
And if you are wondering what I will be doing on Friday night – I’ll be at the lacrosse game of course, no doubt missing something terribly important to one of the other three.
But you can bet on Saturday morning, we will all be together over plates of bacon and homemade waffles having a small moment.
“Life gives us brief moments with another...but sometimes in those brief moments we get memories that last a life time...” ~Anonymous